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Black History in St. Lucie is a Lasting Legacy in America’s Art & Literature

History enthusiasts will fall in love with St. Lucie because of its vibrant black history that has been etched into our rich art, literature & culture. A great way to experience and learn about black history in St. Lucie is to take a journey on one of our self-guided heritage trails. Walk in the footsteps of greats such as Zora Neale Hurston, and the group of young African American painters known as the Highwaymen. 

Zora Neale Hurston, the great Harlem Renaissance author who lived an amazing and colorful life, spent her last years in Fort Pierce. Best known for her novels including Their Eyes Were Watching God and Mules and Men, Hurston is a renowned author with a storied history during the time she lived here. The Zora Neale Hurston Dust Tracks Heritage Trail commemorates Zora’s life in Fort Pierce. The driving trail includes three kiosks and eight trail markers taking you to her home, the library that carries her name and a collection of writings and photos, and her gravesite which was unmarked until 1973, when author Alice Walker donated a gravestone describing Zora as ‘A genius of the south.’

In the 1950s, a group of 26 African American artists (25 men and 1 woman) began painting Florida landscapes which they sold out of the trunks of their cars, as a gallery showing would be out of the question at the time. Decades later, this loosely-knit group of artists would become known as the Florida Highwaymen and inducted into the Florida Artists Hall of Fame. Today, the Florida Highwaymen are recognized as an important part of American folk history. Take a self-guided driving tour of the Highwaymen Trail in Fort Pierce to discover their fascinating journey and how they embraced visual art to overcome adversity. The trail includes a stop at the home and art studio of A.E. “Beanie” Backus – one of the country’s most well-known Florida landscape painters who was also a mentor to some of the first Florida Highwaymen. 

For a full overview of St. Lucie’s fascinating history, be sure to schedule a visit to the St. Lucie County Regional History Center which gives visitors a glimpse into community’s beginnings. And don’t miss a visit to the one and only National Navy UDT-SEAL Museum, located on the same training grounds of Hutchinson Island in Fort Pierce where these elite warriors first trained during WWII. The museum features exhibits and artifacts that chronicle the achievements of the U.S. Navy SEALs.